Hue pays tribute to wandering souls

Hue pays tribute to wandering souls
Afterlife: A woman kowtows in front of a temporary altar which is packed with offerings for wandering souls.

THUA THIEN-HUE - For the last eight days in Hue, one could see temporary altars set up in front of homes, companies, offices and alleys, with food and lit incense.

The altars were made to honour the wandering souls and experts and spoke of the deep humanity among locals.

"It is rare to see an activity that is supported by every single person, family and community in the country," said culture researcher Ho Tan Phan.

"But the ritual offering of food to those who died in an incident in 1885 is an exception, and has been practiced in Hue for over 100 years."

In July 4, 1885, the sovereignty of the country under the rule of Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) fell into hands of French colonists. There were battles between royal and French troops, in which about 15,000 Vietnamese soldiers and hundreds of locals were killed.

The date became a common anniversary for Hue locals to remember the dead. In remembrance of those who died in the incident from lunar May 23-30, the people of Hue set up temporary altars and conduct the rituals.

Each altar comprises a variety of food items, depending on the financial capacity of each household, office and community. The food includes costly items to cheap ones like beef, tuna fish or cassava, sweet potatoes, or sugarcane.

The ritual items also include cigarettes, wines and whatever a normal person might need. Despite a hot summer's day, every altar has a flame burning, to symbolise the fire that is said to have kept warm, the people who fell into the canals and rivers during the incident.

"The rituals not only mirror the deep humanity of the locals, but also reflect on the patriotism of the people, as it remembers the date the royal soldiers stood up against the colonial troops," said Phan.

"One of the typical features of the ritual in those eight days of the fifth lunar month is that it is done voluntarily and after consensus from every single person.

Phan said that in addition to lessons of humanity through the ritual, it should be highlighted as an example of patriotism among the locals.

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